Four Films That Tackle the Greatest Taboo
Once homosexuality was the love that dared not speak its name, but with Ellen and Anderson on daytime and a dozen LGB (and occasionally T) characters on prime-time TV now, it's time to look at what might replace homosex in cinema's canon of taboo. Namely: consensual incest. With the recent release of the lesbian film Mary Marie, we look at four films that tackle incest and still made it to the screen.
Mary Marie (2012): With the ethereal quality of The Virgin Suicides, Mary Marie is a sweet and disarming, dreamlike film in which Mary (Alana Kearns-Green) and her sister Marie (Alexandra Roxo) live in an insular state of perpetual childhood and semi-incestuousness. After their mother dies, the two girls do everything together, including sleeping and bathing, but when a handyman enters their (now adult) lives, the twosome must confront childhood's end or deal with the possibly violent repercussions of a love triangle. The two stars wrote the film, which is lovely and hard to define but a worthy look at extreme codependence.
Sister My Sister (1994): This intense British thriller, starring a young Joely Richardson and Jodhi May is directed by Nancy Meckler and written by Wendy Kesselman (based on her play My Sister in This House) — and all that estrogen power behind and in front of the camera pays off in what is a beautifully chilling film about violence, desire, and repression. Based on a real incident in France in the 1930s (Google "the Papin murders"), the movie is the third and perhaps best film to tackle the case. In it, Christine (Richardson) and her sister Lea (May) are maids who are oppressed by their wealthy employer and have only each other to rely on, and their bond goes far beyond simple sisterhood. As the eroticism grows between them, the tension and repressed rage between them and their employer leads to murder.
From Beginning to End (2009): Unlike sapphic incestuousness, the gay version has hardly been shown outside the confines of pornography, which might explain why some viewers were shocked by this Brazilian love story. Two brothers grow up in an extremely close relationship, spooning in bed prepuberty, bathing together, and holding each other from their earliest days. Dad worries that there is something wrong while Mom tells the boys she'll love them no matter what. As very attractive grown men (played by João Gabriel Vasconcellos and Rafael Cardoso), the two reunite and decide to make their intimacy sexual. And yes, the sex scenes are very hot (and worth the rental). But aside from some longing and confusion, viewers are left wondering about the how of it all. Unlike Sister My Sister, the film makes you wonder how the men feel about all this and what created this vacuum of intimacy around them.
The House of Yes (1997): This film is the best of the lot. It also offers the best role for each of the actors who play the three siblings (Parker Posey, Freddie Prinze Jr., and Josh Hamilton are all brilliant) as well as for Tori Spelling (who plays a clueless working-class girl trapped in their web). Posey is Jacki- O, an unbalanced young woman who developed an intimate relationship with her twin brother, Marty, when two were just tweens (the younger version of Posey's character is played by Rachael Leigh Cook of Premonition). When Marty returns home with his new fiancée, Leslie (Spelling in a hilarious role), Jackie-O is determined to set things right. Meanwhile, Mom, played brilliantly by Genevieve Bujold, tells Leslie that the two siblings belong to each other, that in fact Jackie's hand was holding Marty's penis when they came out the womb. There's less sex in the film than in some of the others on this list, but the stellar cast and the real erotic tension between Posey and Hamilton make this a must-see.